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Vision insurers have rigged the market to get you to buy their glasses

Eye Candy Vision is a locally owned, independent company that accepts many different insurances as a convenience for our customers.  We never have, and never will suggest eyewear based on what your insurance reimburses us. Additionally, 95% of our inventory is from independently owned eyewear distributors and manufacturers. Which is why you won't find "designer" names here. As the owner, who has worked for one of the companies mentioned, I can attest to the fact that the practices mentioned in this article actually do happen. This is why, whenever asked I will recommend that, unless it is offered to you free of charge one should never pay for an eye insurance add-on. As the article states, it is basically a discount program and a complete waste of money for 98% of our patients. All that being said, enjoy the article...

 

People tend to think of the vision plans offered by employers as being like any other health insurance. They’re not.

 

The reality is that vision plans, headed by market leaders VSP and EyeMed, are primarily discount programs intended at least in part to promote sales of eyewear affiliated with each company.

 

“The vision plans expect you to get patients in, get them out, sell them glasses,” said Myles Zakheim, an optometrist with offices in Brentwood, Beverly Hills and Hollywood. “Their goal is to push as much product as they possibly can.”

 

Other health insurers may steer patients to specific drugs, say, but that’s because they have sweetheart deals with the drugmakers, not because the insurers themselves manufacture the drugs.

 

“It’s an incredible conflict of interest,” said E. Dean Butler, who founded both EyeMed and LensCrafters but is no longer involved with either business. He currently works as an optical-industry consultant.

 

“The vision plans are manipulating the market for their own benefit,” Butler told me.

 

“Optometrists have lost control of their own profession.

Many optometrists and opticians say they feel squeezed by the vision plans.They want to do right by patients. At the same time, they’re mindful that steering customers to particular frames can result in larger reimbursements — which the patient likely isn’t aware of.

 

“It’s been like this for a long time,” said Norm Steinberg, owner of City Eyes Optometry in Sherman Oaks. “The plans want people to buy their own frames.”

 

This is another aspect of how the eyewear industry is characterized by consolidation, self-interest and price-fixing, with the biggest players doing all they can to stifle or eliminate competition.

 

As I’ve previously reported, if you wear designer glasses, it’s likely you’re wearing frames made by a single company: EssilorLuxottica. The company’s owned and licensed brandsinclude Armani, Brooks Bros., Burberry, Chanel, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Polo Ralph Lauren and Ray-Ban.

 

EssilorLuxottica also runs LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut and Target Optical. And, yes, EyeMed Vision Care.

 

VSP, aka Vision Service Plan, owns Marchon Eyewear, which controls or holds licenses for Altair, Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld, LaCoste, Nautica, Nine West, Nike and other brands.

 

VSP also is following EyeMed into the world of brick-and-mortar retailing. The company said last week it soon will open three stores in Chicago to see how consumers respond.

 

It said Monday that it’s partnering with Maui Jim eyewear to offer special discounts as part of a program “designed to provide VSP network doctors with greater opportunity for more patient flow and increased revenue. 

 

Read on...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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